Another fire hits Somerville
Published: Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 18, 2013 01:09
The Somerville Fire Department responded to its fifteenth fire call in Somerville since June 27 yesterday afternoon. The incident, at 486 Medford Street in Somerville, is part of an ongoing arson investigation south of the Tufts campus.
According to Somerville Fire Chief Kevin Kelleher, the first alarm, which triggered the response, went off at 3:11 p.m. and was followed by a second alarm at 3:23 p.m. It took responding firefighters half an hour to manage the flames.
“We conducted an aggressive interior attack which included opening up the walls and ceiling on the third floor, checking for an extension of the fire,” Kelleher told the Daily.
The space under investigation included five living units, though as of yesterday evening, officers did not know the number of residents who were displaced by the flames, Kelleher said.
“We observed a fire between the first floor porch and the second floor porch deck,” he said. “The fire involved the entire space.”
The cause of the fire is still unknown, according to Kelleher. Investigators were still at the scene as of 5:25 p.m.
Since June 27, four arsons have been confirmed as part of an ongoing investigation by the City of Somerville. Four of the 15 fires were ruled as accidental, while the rest remain under investigation.
“We are continuing to interview people about this, and multiple agencies are involved,” Kelleher said.
Both federal and state agencies, as well as local public safety departments in Somerville, are included in the inspection, according to a Sept. 11 Cambridge Chronicle article. Over 110 people have been displaced and millions of dollars of damages have been caused as a result of the string of fires.
While the Tufts University Police Department (TUPD) is not involved in these investigations, the Tufts Department of Public and Environmental Safety warned students of the fire outbreaks in an email delivered to the student body on Sept. 6.
“Please remain alert to your surroundings and report any suspicious behavior or information to the police,” the email stated. “Sometimes a piece of information that seems unimportant ... can make all the difference in either preventing arson or solving it afterward.”
While two of the 15 fires occurred close to the Tufts campus, the email stated, neither incident is considered suspicious. Police determined that the first fire, which took place on College Avenue, was accidental. The second fire, which occurred on Aug. 28 on Bromfield Road, was under investigation as of Sept. 6 but was also thought to be unrelated to the arson case.
At a press conference about the matter on Sept. 6, Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone revealed that in some of the cases the fires may have been started by someone entering unlocked basements, according to the mayor’s page on the Somerville website.
Kelleher too urged students to remain cautious and be mindful of starting accidental fires with items like furniture, cigarettes or grills.
“Some fires were started in rear buildings,” Kelleher said. “So we want people to be diligent about the possibilities of incendiary fires that could be started from things like old furniture.”
Kelleher said the two most important fire safety precautions are to make sure to have working smoke detectors that detect smoke and carbon monoxide and to get apartment insurance.
“If you hear your smoke detector go off, call the fire department,” Kelleher said. “We would much rather come and find out that there’s a faulty smoke detector than answer a call about someone being trapped on the third floor of a building.”
In terms of apartment insurance, Kelleher said that many students living in off-campus housing do not realize that unless the house has separate insurance with their names, they will not be compensated should there be an accident.
“We just had a major fire recently involving young professionals and students, and they didn’t have apartment insurance,” Kelleher said. “People who rent often don’t get the insurance, even though it’s at a relatively low cost.”
A total of $25,000 is available in rewards for information regarding the fires. Anyone with information is encouraged to call Somerville’s arson hotline at 617-629-1847.